5 Underrated Songs to Serve as Your Halloween Night Soundtrack

Story posted October 31, 2020 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by CommRadio Arts & Entertainment Staff

Halloween is here, and whether you're looking to scare yourself silly or turn the graveyard into a rave-yard, there are plenty of musical options to set the mood.

Everyone knows about the classics, like Michael Jackson's "Thriller" or anything by Black Sabbath or Alice Cooper. But what if you're looking to dig a little deeper? These five forgotten gems are sure to put you in the Halloween spirit.

Various Artists – “I Put a Spell on You”

One song that never fails to set the Halloween mood is the elastic pop hit “I Put a Spell on You.”

The song made its debut as a spooky tune released by the powerhouse vocalist Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who definitely earns his nickname.
The song received new life when the “High Priestess of Soul” herself Nina Simone recorded the track as a gritty soul ballad.

The original guttural sound of the song was later refined for a mass audience by the iconic psychedelic rock group Creedence Clearwater Revival which brought the trippy new sound to Woodstock in 1969.

The song also sports covers from several other notable artists such as the Animals, Annie Lennox and Marilyn Manson. A rare version recorded by the illustrious Tim Curry also exists, performed within the same vein as his iconic role as Dr. Frank N. Furter in the 1975 cult classic film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Another nostalgic cover stems from the 1993 Disney movie “Hocus Pocus.”

Although the song has had many reiterations ranging from gripping soul ballads to psychedelic rock anthems, “I Put a Spell on You” will always have its roots in the Halloween tradition.  —Scott Perdue

Pink Floyd – “Careful with That Axe, Eugene”

While Pink Floyd is best known for establishing the gold standard of progressive and psychedelic rock with some of the most influential albums and songs of all time, it wasn’t out of their wheelhouse to deliver a frightening freakout when the time called for it.

Enter “Careful with That Axe, Eugene,” an instrumental b-side to 1968’s pop single “Point Me at the Sky.” But “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” is no ordinary instrumental b-side. The five-and-a-half-minute track is a downright chilling experience, home to eerie organs, pounding percussion and Roger Waters’ signature piercing screeches.

The best rendition of “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” is the live version found on 1969’s “Ummagumma,” made all the better with its slower, moodier tempo, David Gilmour’s stabbing guitar work and Rick Wright’s absolutely haunting Farfisa organ.

Or, for a truly terrifying experience, check out “Come in Number 51, Your Time Is Up,” a rework of “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” for the “Zabriskie Point” movie soundtrack. It’s sure to send a shiver down the spine on first listen.  —DJ Bauer

Oingo Boingo – “Dead Man’s Party”

It’s hard to imagine Halloween without this Oingo Boingo classic.

The ska-infused rock track from the Danny Elfman-led group has been a staple for Halloween parties for years now. While the track doesn’t necessarily bring the fright out in people, what it brings out instead is energy.

The song starts with a blasting horns section followed by a groovy guitar riff and thumping bass drum, immediately evoking whatever funky bone the listener has in their body.

Where the song gets its spooky feeling from lies more in the lyrics. “Don’t run away, it’s only me/Don’t be afraid of what you can’t see,” sings Elfman in the refrain following the chorus.

The references to Halloween themes are covered all over the track, ranging from the chorus repeating to leave your body and soul at the door, to Elfman singing about going to a party where no one’s still alive.

The greatest indicator of this track’s staying power around this time of year is its title. “Dead Man’s Party” is always a crowd pleaser and will guarantee to bring the spirit out in all guests at a Halloween party. Just make sure to leave your soul and body at home.  —Paul Martin

Radiohead – “Climbing Up the Walls”

Radiohead was never one to shy away from testing the comfort zone of its listeners. So what was stopping them from delivering one of the most terrifying tracks in music history? That’s exactly what they did with 1997’s “Climbing Up the Walls.”

Appearing as the ninth track on the legendary “OK Computer,” “Climbing Up the Walls” is often overshadowed by mammoths like “Paranoid Android and “Karma Police.” But this bloodcurdling number is nothing to overlook.

Defined by Thom Yorke’s menacing lyrics and disturbed vocals, “Climbing Up the Walls” is five minutes of sheer horror, greatly assisted by its booming percussion, fuzzy guitar, bone-chilling sound effects and Yorke’s shrieks of terror in the final minute. There’s nothing else quite as unsettling in the entire Radiohead repertoire.

If you’re looking for that one song that will keep you up all night in fear, it’s “Climbing Up the Walls.” Just be thankful that the lovely palate-cleanser “No Surprises” comes right after on the track listing.  —DJ Bauer

“Psycho” soundtrack

People like to watch scary movies around October in the spirit of Halloween. The moving pictures themselves help provide the shock value that audiences want to experience. However, to be fully immersed in the character’s feelings at particular moments within the film, a well-written soundtrack is crucial. 

From start to finish, the soundtrack for “Psycho” is defined in one word: unsettling. During the beginning credit scroll and in every scene in which tension is felt, the viewer is kept on edge by a musical score written quite fittingly by Bernard Herrmann.

Music mainly serves to set the atmosphere for the most important scenes. Rather than drown a film in needless noise, each tune is used to portray specifically the feeling of uneasiness and sometimes outright fear.

The sound clip from the murder scene in particular has become so infamous that most people immediately can recognize it out of context. Just listening to the short shrills alone is spine-chilling enough.

Without the unpleasant feeling provided by the soundtrack, “Psycho” may not be as well regarded as it is today.  —David Myers


DJ Bauer is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email djbauer1999@gmail.com.

Paul Martin is a junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email phm5095@psu.edu.

David Myers is a junior majoring in telecommunications.  To contact him, email d12amyers@gmail.com.

Scott Perdue is a senior majoring in secondary education. To contact him, email rsp5246@psu.edu.

About the Contributors

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DJ Bauer

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

David “DJ” M. Bauer Jr. is a senior from Valencia, Pennsylvania majoring in broadcast journalism at Penn State. He is an editor, writer, producer, and play-by-play announcer for the CommRadio sports department. His writings include the Weekly NFL Game Picks series, Bauertology, and the NCAA Bubble Watch series. He is the co-host of the CommRadio talk show 4th & Long alongside Jeremy Ganes. Alongside Andrew Destin, Andrew Field and Zach Donaldson, he is one of CommRadio’s Penn State football insiders, a group of elite writers who cover Penn State football in depth during the 2020 season. He was also a production intern for the Frontier League’s Washington Wild Things baseball club. If you’d like to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Scott Perdue's photo

Scott Perdue

Senior / Secondary Education

Scott Perdue is a student studying secondary education at Penn State University. He is passionate about voice and conversation mediums. He believes that music and film are an important form of communication and enjoys constructively criticizing an artist’s work.

David Myers's photo

David Myers

Fourth-year student / Telecommunications

David Myers is a fourth-year student from Watsontown, Pennsylvania. He is a member of the student-run radio station CommRadio at Penn State. He is in the arts & entertainment department.

Paul Martin's photo

Paul Martin